Look for the union la­bel?

The UAW gets a case of sticker shock

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - OPINION -

UNION lead­ers love to talk about the need for union sol­i­dar­ity — at least un­til they see the bill. The United Auto Work­ers is one of the most high-pro­file unions in the coun­try. It rep­re­sents hun­dreds of thou­sands of North Amer­i­can work­ers and has a

$721 mil­lion strike fund. It also owns 1,000 acres along a lake in north­ern Michi­gan, which it claims to use as an ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter.

The union is cur­rently build­ing a lake­front home there for re­tired UAW Pres­i­dent Den­nis Wil­liams, The Detroit News re­ported re­cently. The plans show the home will have gran­ite coun­ters, a wine cooler, a hid­den room ac­ces­si­ble via a mov­able book­shelf and views of the lake. It’s un­clear how a re­tire­ment get­away for a for­mer pres­i­dent is a wise use of union dol­lars, but at least the UAW fig­ured out a way to save money on the project.

The union put the house out to bid, re­quir­ing the use of union mem­bers on the project. It got two bids, one for $850,000 and one for $1.3 mil­lion. UAW of­fi­cials re­jected both as too high. The es­tate is now be­ing built with a mix of union and nonunion la­bor. The com­pany that’s do­ing the build­ing’s foun­da­tion and sewer is nonunion. The union also out­sourced some of the elec­tri­cal work to a nonunion shop.

The hypocrisy is ob­vi­ous and pro­vides an im­por­tant pol­icy les­son for Ne­vadans.

State law cur­rently re­quires that most gov­ern­ment projects pay union wage rates, called the pre­vail­ing wage. Pre­vail­ing wage rates are 45 per­cent higher than mar­ket wages, ac­cord­ing to a 2011 study from the Ne­vada Pol­icy Re­search In­sti­tute.

In 2015, Repub­li­cans at­tempted to re­peal those re­quire­ments for new school con­struc­tion. Union lead­ers and their al­lies filled the com­mit­tee room with pre­dic­tions of doom if law­mak­ers over­turned pre­vail­ing wage re­quire­ments. It would en­dan­ger worker safety and de­crease the qual­ity of school con­struc­tion, they claimed. What they were re­ally wor­ried about was nonunion la­bor sig­nif­i­cantly un­der­bid­ding them.

At the end of the ses­sion, politi­cians passed a bill al­low­ing schools to pay 90 per­cent of the pre­vail­ing wage rate. Un­sur­pris­ingly, the dooms­day sce­nario of faulty con­struc­tion and worker in­juries out­lined by the union and its al­lies hasn’t come true.

With Democrats firmly in charge in Car­son City, it’s al­most cer­tain they will roll back those mod­est pre­vail­ing wage re­forms. Un­doubt­edly, they’ll talk about the im­por­tance of union la­bor to en­sur­ing the qual­ity of a project and worker safety.

When they do, just re­mem­ber the UAW. Nonunion la­bor is safe enough for the homes of union lead­ers, which means it can be safe enough for Ne­vadans, too.

The views ex­pressed above are those of the Las Ve­gas Re­view-jour­nal. All other opin­ions ex­pressed on the Opin­ion and Com­men­tary pages are those of the in­di­vid­ual artist or author in­di­cated.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.